Pay Attention, Carter Jones

by Gary D Schmidt (Author)

Pay Attention, Carter Jones
Reading Level: 6th — 7th Grade
Bestselling author Gary D. Schmidt tells a coming-of-age story with the light touch of The Wednesday Wars, the heart of Okay for Now, and the unique presence of a wise and witty butler. Carter Jones is astonished early one morning when he finds a real English butler, bowler hat and all, on the doorstep--one who stays to help the Jones family, which is a little bit broken. In addition to figuring out middle school, Carter has to adjust to the unwelcome presence of this new know-it-all adult in his life and navigate the butler's notions of decorum. And ultimately, when his burden of grief and anger from the past can no longer be ignored, Carter learns that a burden becomes lighter when it is shared. Sparkling with humor, this insightful and compassionate story will resonate with readers who have confronted secrets of their own.

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
"The result is wonderfully impressive and layered. (Fiction. 10-13)"

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-8--Young Carter Jones opens the front door one morning to find an English butler on his doorstep. Sent to the Jones family by his late grandfather, Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick reforms the household with his wit, precision, and commitment to decorum. As Carter deals with his father's deployment, Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick also takes on the role of emotional caretaker and support for Carter. Together, they play cricket and learn that the rules of the game are also the rules for a healthy and happy life. Schmidt, author of the celebrated Wednesday Wars, strikes gold again with this emotionally complex character who learns to navigate change and disappointment, and, more important, how to receive help. Schmidt writes with a clear and compelling voice, and masterfully crafts Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick as an endearing family helper and friend with a Mary Poppins-like disposition. The use of cricket as a narrative tool to embolden Carter is clever and will surely peak young readers' interest in the sport. VERDICT A rich and nuanced middle grade novel that will appeal to readers who feel a little on the outskirts.--Katherine Hickey, Metropolitan Library System, Oklahoma City

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Schmidt (Orbiting Jupiter) fuses pathos and humor in this adroitly layered novel that opens as Carter answers the doorbell to find a dapper British "gentleman's gentleman," a former employee of the boy's grandfather, whose will bequeathed his service to Carter's family. And they do need some sorting out: the sixth grader's father has been deployed to Germany, and his emotionally fraught mother is struggling to parent her four children alone in New York State. Endearingly devoted to his younger sisters, Carter is reeling from his beloved brother's sudden death, his alienation from his uncommunicative father (hauntingly underscored in flashbacks to an angst-riddled camping trip), and the sickening realization that his father isn't coming home. The butler's strict adherence to decorum and the Queen's English triggers amusing repartee with slang-loving Carter; he also recognizes and assuages the boy's pain by introducing him--and his schoolmates--to cricket, which gives them all a sense of purpose and pride. Opening each chapter with a definition of a cricket term, Schmidt weaves the sport's jargon into the narrative, further enriching the verbal badinage and reinforcing the affecting bond between a hurting boy and a compassionate man. Ages 10-12. (Feb.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Schmidt gracefully weaves together the humor of school, siblings, and a dachshund with a delicate digestive system with deeper themes of family connection, disappointment, anger, and grief. The result is wonderfully impressive and layered."—Kirkus, STARRED review

"Schmidt, author of the celebrated Wednesday Wars, strikes gold again with this emotionally complex character who learns to navigate change and disappointment, and, more important, how to receive help."—School Library Journal, STARRED review
Gary D Schmidt
Gary D. Schmidt is the author of the Newbery Honor and Printz Honor book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. His most recent novel is The Wednesday Wars. He is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Clarion Books
Publication date
February 20, 2019

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